Turns out Aretha Franklin knew what she was talking about. Because when it comes to happiness, it’s all about getting r-e-s-p-e-c-t.
While conventional wisdom says that money can’t buy love or happiness, a team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, says that overall happiness is relative to how much respect and admiration people get in life from their peers, friends, colleagues and family members.
“Having high standing in your local ladder leads to receiving more respect, having more influence, and being more integrated into the group’s social fabric,” explained lead researcher Cameron Anderson.
For the study, published in Psychological Science and released last week, researchers conducted a series of studies among college and graduate students using similar methods.
Participants’ social or “sociometric” status was calculated through a combination of peer ratings, self-report, and the number of leadership positions held. They also answered questions on their total household income and social well-being.
In the first study, researchers surveyed 80 college students who were involved in 12 different campus groups like sororities.
The same method was used to follow MBA students into the real world, where their social status may have changed.
What they found was an even stronger correlation between the amount of respect people commanded in the working world and their overall social well-being, as compared to their student life.
“I was surprised at how fluid these effects were,” Anderson said. “If someone’s standing in their local ladder went up or down, so did their happiness, even over the course of 9 months.”
One possible explanation? People are quick to adapt to new circumstances like wealth and affluence, so that the excitement and euphoria wears off quickly.
Lottery winners, for example, are initially happy but then return to their original level of happiness quickly, said Anderson.
Meanwhile, another study says that money can buy you happiness — as long as you spend it on others.
Conducted out of the University of British Columbia and Harvard, it found that individuals reported greater satisfaction and happiness when they spent money on charitable gifts for others rather than on themselves.